HRC called for committees in both the Mississippi’s House of Representatives and Senate to bring up for a vote bills that would update the state’s hate crimes law.
HRC called for committees in both the Mississippi’s House of Representatives and Senate to bring up for a vote bills that would update the state’s hate crimes law. The twin bills, HB 1494 and SB 2163, are currently awaiting a hearing in the House Judiciary B committee and the Senate Judiciary A committee, respectively. This legislation would add sexual orientation, gender identity and disability to the existing statewide hate crimes law. This crucial update to Mississippi’s hate crimes law would simply bring it up to the federal standard.
“All Mississippians deserve equal justice under the law, and HB 1494 and SB 2163 are a much-needed remedy to the shortcomings of our current state hate crimes law,” said Rob Hill, HRC Mississippi state director. “Without enumerating sexual orientation, gender identity and disability, the LGBTQ community and people with disabilities will continue to be under-protected when they are targeted simply because of who they are. We implore the judiciary committees in both houses to bring this bill to a vote -- it’s the right thing to do.”
Mississippi, like most states in the South, does not have statewide hate crimes laws that are inclusive of sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. This makes it more difficult for law enforcement to adequately prosecute perpetrators of bias-motivated crimes and deliver justice to victims and their families. Within the past few years, Mississippi has faced a tragic, disproportionate number of anti-transgender crimes, including the highly-publicized murders of Mercedes Williamson, Mesha Caldwell and Dee Whigham. Out of those three murders, only Mercedes Williamson’s was prosecuted under existing hate crimes laws, because the the perpetrator crossed state lines, making it a federal crime. Caldwell and Whigham were not able to receive full justice under the law because of the lack of protections for gender identity.
The Mississippi Sheriffs Association and the Mississippi Prosecutors Association both support expanding the current hate crimes law to include disability, sexual orientation and gender identity.
In 2014, HRC launched Project One America, an initiative geared towards advancing social, institutional and legal equality in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas. HRC Mississippi continues to work to advance equality for LGBTQ Mississippians who have no state level protections in housing, workplace, or public accommodations. Through HRC Mississippi, we are working toward a future of fairness every day -- changing hearts, minds and laws toward achieving full equality.